By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Monticello decided to make running back Khadeem Richards the focal point of its offense late last season.
And how did that work out?
Richards, a star sprinter, busted out for 900 rushing yards in the Panthers’ last four games. If Friday’s game against Wallkill was any indication, he might put up even up even bigger numbers this season. Richards rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns in Monticello’s 40-0 win.
For good measure, Richards, who also plays defensive back, returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown.
“I feel like I have something to prove this year,” said Richards, who finished last year with 1,147 yards and 12 touchdowns. “I feel like I’m underrated. I want to show colleges what I’m capable of because I want to play college football. I’m just going to go hard every day.”
Richards, a senior, is a gifted athlete, but his best attribute is his speed. He won the 200-meter dash at the Section 9 Class B track championships in 21.78 in the spring and was second in the state. Richards knows that most defenders can’t keep up with him, especially in the open field.
“With someone like Khadeem, you feel like any time you play you that have a puncher’s chance,” said first-year Monticello coach Sean McAveney, who served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator last year. “I’ve been on the other side with a player like Khadeem. You make 95 percent of the plays on defense, you play almost a perfect game, and you lose the game on five plays. He can do that to you.”
Richards rushed for 96 yards on 11 carries in a 24-7 season-opening loss to Roosevelt. McAveney said that Monticello was still finding its way and complimented Roosevelt coach Brian Bellino on drawing up a good game plan for Richards. Wallkill had no answer for Richards.
Richards’ highlight reel performance comes as Monticello’s Class A schedule hits a crucial stretch with Port Jervis this week followed by Saugerties. Richards might think he is underrated, but he is now on everyone’s radar.
“I like getting more touches and being a featured player,” Richards said. “I’m up for the challenge. I expect to play at a high level this year and I’m going to put everything on the table.”